Social Media

More on Tag/Trackback bad guy stuff

Tom Coates of Plastic Bag has decided that Trackback is dead. Now, where have I heard that before…

He also goes on that comments could possibly be dead, too. However, in this I disagree with him — not everyone that has something interesting to say about a weblog post has a weblog, or even wants to write a weblog entry in order to respond. And frankly, a few simple precautions, including turning off comments on posts over so many days old, and putting in simple throttles can not only control this as a problem, it can virtually eliminate it.

Still, I agree with him on trackbacks: trackback is dead, long live trackback. It was a good idea at the time, it was fun while it lasted, but it’s time to move on.

Now let’s talk about referers, and the true problem from which there is no solution. Because of a Fark linked image to a site I hosted, and the constant hammering of referers, I exceeded 30GB of bandwidth this month. Yes, I redirect or kill those I spot. But when the spammer goes from to to, you can’t keep up. Referer spam protection based on keyword helps, but does not eliminate.

Hotlink protection prevents the increasing problems with Fark — that and using a third party service such as flickr to manage our photos. But there’s nothing that can be done with referers — we can’t stop the web server from accepting page requests, or filter each through a open proxy test or some other extreme protection. And while search engines rank on links making weblogs low lying fruit, we will always be faced with “search engine optimizers” who link, comment, trackback, and ping us — and on and on.

As for Tagbacks, this unfortunately has problems of it’s own. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a Tagback is using an unused Technorati tag as a way to group links on a topic. So I could use a tagback for this page called  and people could use this in their posts and they’ll all show up on the same Technorati Tag page.

The concept has interest — let a third party manage spam, while we still benefit from the technology. However, a couple of issues.

First, Technorati pulls the tagback entry from the file name of the URI, not the contained element. You then have to change the filename to fit the tagback name.

In addition, if you want to use your weblog post as the tagback item, you can’t list the link in the weblog post as a tagback item, as well as having a permalink because Technorati thinks you’re then trying to spam it, and will disregard the tagback.

Finally, as more people use Technorati tags, more links go to the Technorati pages related to these topics and these pages become a new form of spam to search engines. Technorati has restricted search engine access of the links, but not the pages themselves.

Though getting the Technorati Tag page as a result of a search is appropriate for something like ‘folksonomy’ — most people who know folksonomy also know that Technorati is– for terms such as Missouri or Military, the associated Technorati tag page is not necessarily value added from a search engine perspective. Unlike a related topic in Wikipedia, there is no ‘content’ associated with a Technorati Tag, it’s purely links.

It’s not an issue now except with very finite topics such as Folksonomy, but if the concept takes off, it could be a problem. A problem that is only compounded as the use increases, and the centralized service becomes burdened by the loads placed on it.

Now the concept of using a tag in our writing and having decentralized services pick it up, similar to aggregators and RSS2.0/RSS1.0/Atom has some potential for interest. Focus the tags on pages that provide a tag/topic introduction, such as an originating weblog post or Wikipedia topic, and you have the start of something that could be even more interesting. Relatively spam proof, too, if the links are aggregated rather than re-published.

Might be worth time to explore, if we’re not all dead tired of the topic by now.

We can write about the new Serenity movie instead. So where is Book?

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